SHERIDAN — Wyoming students performed above the national average last year in all four categories on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP, or the Nation’s Report Card.
The tests are run by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal program. NAEP grades fourth- and eighth-graders in every state on math and reading. Students usually take the tests around February.
NAEP assesses students in the entire state, so individual school district results are not available.
Statewide, Wyoming students performed at about the same level last year as in 2015 and 2013, though Wyoming has seen improvement over time in all categories since 1998.
Wyoming fourth-graders scored higher in reading than 34 other states. Wyoming students were behind three states and about even with 14 others. Furthermore, 74 percent of Wyoming fourth-graders were at or above the NAEP basic level in reading and the national average of 67 percent.
In fourth-grade math, 89 percent of Wyoming students were at or above the basic NAEP level. Wyoming was one of the top states, as it had better scores than 43 states and about the same results as eight states.
In eighth-grade reading, Wyoming students did better than 21 states, were behind seven states and about even with 23 others. Eighty percent of Wyoming eighth-graders were at or above the NAEP basic level in reading and the national average of 75 percent.
In eighth-grade math, Wyoming performed better than 35 states and was about even with 11, while five states had higher results.
Seventy-nine percent of Wyoming students were at or above the basic NAEP level.
Sheridan County School District 1 superintendent Marty Kobza attributed the state’s above average results to spending on education.
“The financial investment is absolutely essential to the scores that Wyoming kids get,” Kobza said. “If you look at where Wyoming ranked in NAEP prior to the investment in schools, from the middle of the pack to now arguably the best in the country, I think you can draw a direct correlation to the investment that’s been made.”
SCSD1 doesn’t do any specific preparation for NAEP, outside of regular classwork.
“If we’re doing the right things, that stuff will take care of itself,” Kobza said. “We don’t stop instruction in order to prepare for two or three months for a single test. We believe that there’s much more to a child’s education than that.”
Sheridan County School District 2 assistant superintendents Mitch Craft and Scott Stults said SCSD2 doesn’t do any specific preparation either because NAEP criteria is a little mysterious.
Both local school districts spend significantly more time preparing for the WY-TOPP tests, which align with state teaching standards.
Because information for specific school districts isn’t available and it is unclear exactly what the tests are assessing, SCSD2 doesn’t place much value on the scores.
Still, the NAEP tests are one of the rare assessments administered to students in all states across the country, allowing comparison over time.
Looking ahead, Kobza said Wyoming NAEP scores may drop in upcoming years as a result of decreased education funding.
“The only thing I’m concerned about going forward for Wyoming is that the Legislature (will) continue to make cuts to education in Wyoming,” Kobza said. “Once you start taking away those resources, you’re going to see diminishing returns.”
The NAEP results aren’t overly useful for local school districts, but they show that Wyoming appears to be doing a good job educating its elementary and middle school students.